SOLAR FOR CANADA’S ECONOMY
That’s the sun lighting up Canada’s manufacturing sector. And not a moment too soon.
Tibor Urbanek, founder/president, Woodbine Tool & Die: "It [was] a very dark situation…"
Woodbine Tool & Die lost a third of its workforce in the last 2 years.
Urbanek: "We have no choice but to look for alternative work for our employees…If we're going to stay in business, we have to be flexible and reach out to anything available."
What kind of work turns out to be available? Solar systems manufacturing. Solar systems producer Menova Energy Inc. moved into part of the Woodbine manufacturing plant and put Woodbine's personnel into high gear.
Dave Gerwing, president/founder, Menova: "They're just stoked, and they've really been super accommodating…They offer the kind of scale we needed."
Things suddenly look promising for Woodbine. Wal-Mart Canada is installing a Menova solar system and may install such systems in Wal-Marts across the country. Getting a small part of that business would keep Menova and Woodbine busy for 4 years and generate new manufacturing and “green collar” jobs worth a quarter of a billion dollars.
Urbanek: "To support that level of demand, Woodbine Tool & Die's operations in Ontario would grow by 85 employees and spin off another 240 indirect support jobs in primary metals and installations…"
The future is coming, it is coming fast and it is bringing opportunity. The key, according to the experts, is to be ready with policies and attitudes that foster the kind of growth available.
Mark Winfield, professor of environmental studies, York University: "It's great that individual companies are doing this, but the potential and need is much larger than this announcement…What we need to see is a more explicit strategy on the part of the province to facilitate this kind of transition."
Canada has lots of yellow & orange - moderate to good sun worth developing. (click to enlarge)
Seeking a new place in the sun; Struggling auto-arts maker Woodbine is taking on work for solar-tech firm Menova
Tyler Hamilton, May 24, 2008 (Toronto Star)
Woodbine Tool & Die (Tibor Urbanek, founder/president); Martinrea International Inc. (Rob Wildeboer, chair); Menova Energy Inc. (Dave Gerwing, president/founder); Wal-Mart Canada
More specifically: Will it lift Canada's boat? (click to enlarge)
As Woodbine Tool & Die’s auto parts manufacturing business falls off, solar systems manufacturer Menova has taken space in its facility and is providing work to its employees.
Canadian Auto-parts production: Expected to fall for the 3rd straight year. Expected to fall 8% in 2008.
U.S. stats could apply in Canada with the right policies. (click to enlarge)
- Urbanek’s Woodbine Tool & Die is based in Markham, Ontario, just north of Toronto.
- Auto parts manufacturing in China, Korea and other places where labor is cheaper than in Canada.
Menova sells its solar systems internationally.
- Wal-Mart Canada will install a Menova Power-Spar solar power and heating system on a Supercentre it is building in Markham.
- Martinrea International is Canada’s 2nd biggest auto parts supplier.
- Woodbine Tool & Die had 330 employees 2 years ago and now has 220.
- Menova will take up 20% of the Woodbine facility, 25,000 sq. ft., and use Woodbine staff.
- The Wal-Mart Canada Menova Power-Spar solar system purchase is part of a multimillion-dollar demonstration project partly funded by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.
- The Wal-Mart/Menova solar system will have an 850 kilowatt electricity capacity and an 850 kilowatt heating capacity.
Green jobs are skilled jobs with good pay and benefits. (click to enlarge)
- Rob Wildeboer, chair, Martinrea International Inc., on the outsourcing of auto parts manufacturing work to cheaper labor markets: "[Canadian auto parts manufacturing is] getting killed…"
- Dave Gerwing, president/founder, Menova: "We have a great shot at a global business from Ontario."
- Tibor Urbanek, founder/president, Woodbine Tool & Die: "Physically, we are ready to expand in this new direction. We have a large enough property to renovate the building if needed…This project is exciting."